Joe Ross threw 76 pitches in just four innings on the mound against the New York Mets back on April 30th in the nation’s capital.
Ross gave up seven hits, a walk and five earned runs in what ended up being a 23-5 win for Washington against their NL East rivals.
It was the third straight start in which Ross struggled after being called up from Triple-A Syracuse. Ross started the season with the Nationals’ top minor league affiliate when it wasn’t necessary to have a fifth starter over the first few weeks of 2017 campaign.
Nats’ skipper Dusty Baker didn’t have any answers for what was plaguing Ross when he spoke to reporters after the April win over the Mets.
“I don’t know, just some balls, sliders, were up in the zone,” he said, “... and the fastballs are kind of in the middle of the plate. I don’t know.”
Ross was sent back down to Triple-A after that outing to work on his mechanics, after the Nationals noticed he was dropping his arm slot and losing velocity when his pitch count got up.
The 24-year-old right-hander has been up-and-down since returning, giving up one run on five hits in eight innings against Seattle in his first start back, then allowing 19 hits, three home runs, and 12 runs total, 11 earned, in seven innings of work in back-to-back losses to San Diego and Oakland.
Ross was solid over 7 1⁄3 against the Baltimore Orioles, giving up four hits and one run while striking out a career-high 12 batters, then he gave up nine hits, three walks and five earned runs in a 10-5 win over the Atlanta Braves in which he received no decision in what was his last start before today’s against the New York Mets in Citi Field.
“I didn’t really quite have my command tonight,” Ross told reporters after the start vs the Braves, “but I felt like I kind of battled. Felt good out there, but you know I’m glad that we just got the win.”
Baker expressed confidence in his right-hander after that outing, in spite of the so-far inconsistent results for Ross.
“That’s a young pitcher,” Baker said. “Still trying to find himself. There aren’t many guys his age in the big leagues with the stuff he has that are trying to find themselves.
“Most of the time he’s probably just got out of college, you know what I mean. Joe has the stuff and we have faith in him big-time.”
Ross tossed two scoreless against the Mets this afternoon, before Jacob deGrom hit a first-pitch sinker to left for an opposite field blast to lead off the third, and New York added two runs in a 20-pitch fourth by the Nationals’ right-hander, who gave up four hits in the inning, the first of four on a catchable pop to left field that Daniel Murphy lost in the sun.
Michael Conforto hit a two-out single in the sixth to put the Mets up 4-1, and the 10-pitch frame left Ross at 103 pitches overall. That was it for the righty, who took the loss in what ended up a 5-1 game in New York’s favor.
Joe Ross’s Line: 6.0 IP, 9 H, 4 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 4 Ks, 1 HR, 103 P, 66 S, 7/4 GO/FO.
“He kept his ball down most of the time,” Baker told reporters when asked about the outing by Ross after the loss. “He had pretty good command. His changeup is getting better, because the speed differential is a lot better, so he’s been working on that to get left-handers out, and right-handers.”
“But he threw some quality changeups,” Baker continued, “because usually the speed differential is only four-to-five miles an hour, but it was like 11-12 miles an hour which is really good and showed a lot of progress.”
Brooksbaseball.net had Ross’s change at an average of 85.8 mph, down slightly from his 86.1 mph average this season, and about seven miles an hour off the pace of his sinker, which averaged 92.8 on Sunday, (up slightly from 91.7 this year), and he threw eight of 13 changeups for strikes, generating seven swings and three misses with the pitch, and mixed in 33 sliders, 25 for strikes, generating 21 swings and nine swings and misses.
Ross also threw 33 of 57 sinkers for strikes, generating 22 swings, and one swinging strike with the pitch, and 13 put in play, four of them for hits.
“Joe threw the ball well,” Baker said, noting that two of the four runs he allowed came after the Lucas Duda pop to right that fell in for the first of four hits Ross gave up in the fourth when Daniel Murphy lost it in the sun.
“Had we — that one sun ball, I was hoping that one of our outfielders would have been close enough to kind of help Murph on that ball, but you could tell that he was in trouble and then that led to two runs, and Joe, in reality, really only should have given up two runs.”